Note the question was reopened but now it's been closed again for being opinion-based. Yet the OP's words "what would be the best/correct way" are equivalent to "what are the grammatical rules behind these two options". The question should once again be reopened.

The question "A" or "The" in a title was closed when the body read:

What would be the best – correct way to pick for a title of a project: A girl who wanted to be a boy
The girl who wanted to be a boy.
Google books shows both versions

Subsequently, the OP has added 369 words to the body of the question that give enough detail to afford informed answers. (As an aside the hyperlinks were also cleaned up in the editing process.)

Subsequent to that substantial edit the OP posted another ~500 words of story summary in a comment, since deleted.

Note closing the question seemed to come about after one closevote, after which one moderator closed it.

For those who don't think the question should be reopened, please explain why not. (I assume the DV to this meta-question was given for that reason.) And say what else can be done to clarify the question?

It seems to me an interesting question about the use of definite vs indefinite articles in the title of stories/novels, as opposed to the run-of-the-mill query about lack of articles in headlines.

The OP went to the trouble of including their own research.

  • You have substantially changed the meaning of the question. I would recommend you revert your latest edit. Oct 20, 2017 at 13:10
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    Can a mod remove status complete from this meta-question because the question under discussion was closed again @MetaEd Oct 20, 2017 at 13:35
  • You edited the post without any input from the OP. It's their question, which means the basic form of the question should remain their own. If you really want to know the difference, you can ask your own question. In any case, asking for the difference won't bring this on-topic, as it's too basic/no research is shown for it. Oct 20, 2017 at 13:37
  • I did not substantially edit the post. The OP was asking about the best/correct way to title a story. When this question is asked on a site such as this, it means what is the grammatical distinction between the two ways, because I don't want to choose a way that is not correct. In addition the OP did include their research from the get-go. Oct 20, 2017 at 13:40
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    Besides that, the issue of trying to salvage a question has been talked about here in meta before,. many times. See, for one Suggested Edit - Author input? Oct 20, 2017 at 13:45
  • "When this question is asked on a site such as this, it means what is the grammatical distinction between the two ways, because I don't want to choose a way that is not correct." No it doesn't, not normally at least. We almost always close such questions as primarily opinion based. And linking to two Google searches for quotes is not the kind of research we're after: looking up the function of articles in a grammar of English is the kind of research the OP needs to present. Oct 20, 2017 at 13:49
  • If you @curious have a question regarding my edit, you should bring it up as a different question not discuss it in comments, so that's all I have to say. Oct 20, 2017 at 13:50
  • One poor question does not deserve two separate Meta discussions. You yourself solicited advice on improving the question here! "And say what else can be done to clarify the question?" You went ahead and unilaterally edited the question. I'm here saying that IMO your edit was not a clarification, but actually changed the core of the question. It's perfectly appropriate to discuss that here without making a new Meta discussion. Oct 20, 2017 at 13:52
  • @Mari-LouA What's the point of making and improving lots of questions about articles? The OP's intentions have been disregarded, a poor question still has no research, and if it is reopened, it really only will deserve to be closed again because now it's form means that it is a duplicate of other questions. All this effort should have been spent on making a good canonical question. Oct 21, 2017 at 3:31
  • @AndrewLeach can the status-completed tag be removed? That tag was placed after the question was reopened. Sadly the question has now been closed again and the tag is serving an unintended purpose. Oct 21, 2017 at 12:11
  • @Clare Despite your claims that it has been researched, it has not been according to the expectations of this site. See this meta discussion The OP needs to show what they have looked at to try to answer the question themselves so that we can understand why they still have questions and address the knowledge gap. Oct 21, 2017 at 13:47
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2 Answers 2


The question is still about “A girl who…” vs “The girl who…”. And the title itself has not changed.

The OP's simple request is whether one story title is preferable to the other. @Clare provided a solid sound answer explaining the difference between the two, which was also supported by authoritative and esteemed references.

As a community who cares about the health of this website, and who cares about the English language, we should be delighted that a question which was seemingly opinion-based was tweaked and improved. From

  1. What would be the best – correct way to pick for a title of a project:

  2. What is the grammatical difference between a title of a story called...

I don't understand why any user would be so hot under the collar over a minor but skillful edit. An edit that respected the OP's intent.

It's worth noting that the OP specifically asks about the correct way, which strongly hints they were looking for an answer that offered a deeper analysis than one based on somebody's pure whim or personal preference.

The question bore two interesting answers, with Clare's answer being the more authoritative, and in my view, more helpful for future visitors.

What harm has been done?

I forgot to add, the question as it appears now, should be reopened.

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    The fact remains that we require the OP to do research, and they haven't, and no one else can do it for them. Also, if it is reopened, then it would be a duplicate, so should be closed again. Oct 21, 2017 at 6:45
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    @curiousdannii I see your emphasis has shifted from that of an edit that is invalid and inappropriate to the OP's lack of research. The OP did research, they looked up on Google the number of entries each sentence drew. That's the research. The OP is not a linguist by any stretch of the imagination. Presumably, you will cast your vote to close any and every question that lacks the type of research you expect. Am I correct?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 21, 2017 at 6:49
  • I still think the edit was wrong. I also think reopening it in this state is wrong. Looking in Google Books and discovering that both phrases exist is not the kind of research we require. As I wrote above, looking up the function of articles in a grammar of English is the kind of research the OP needs to present. Such as on Wikipedia - I'm not saying they need to go out and purchase the CGEL for $475! Oct 21, 2017 at 6:50
  • Looking up a phrase in Google books would only be valid research for the question "Has anyone ever (in published writings) said X?" That's not this kind of question. Oct 21, 2017 at 6:51
  • I agree with your answer and my approach was similar to what I've seen both here and on English language Learners. Unfortunately I've felt it best to deselect your answer until other issues regarding this question have occurred. First the status-completed tag needs to be removed. Second we need a resolution about what types of edits are allowed. Oct 21, 2017 at 11:51
  • @Clare No probs. I was waiting for someone else to chip in, someone who is more eloquent and an established authority.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 21, 2017 at 12:05
  • I thought there were more questions and answers on meta about edits, "extensive edits", edit policy etc but I can't find them now. Surely my edit improved the question and allowed for a grammar based, documented answer. I thought that's what was wanted here. Oct 21, 2017 at 12:30
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    I liked the post more before the edit, actually. The grammatical difference seems pretty clear--one has a definite article, the other has an indefinite article. The interesting question seems to be more about the difference in meaning and usage between the two examples.
    – herisson
    Oct 21, 2017 at 22:51
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    @sumelic the only change is the one I cited in the answer. The original had Which is the best/correct way to pick a title... which is arguably POB, and, where exactly does the OP ask about meaning? (You said you preferred the Q before the edit) If anything, that aspect is better highlighted by the edit and in Clare's answer. And while I'm at it, why the answer deserved 2 anonymous DVs is a mystery to me...well, maybe she hasn't endeared herself to users. But, still... to DV a perfectly decent and well-supported answer is really petty.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 22, 2017 at 11:59
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    @sumelic after all that, I see the question has been reopened, and Clare's answer attracted 2 UVs. So some users do have some sense. There's hope for us all.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 22, 2017 at 12:01

First, apologies if this "answer" would be better as a separate question, but I didn't want to start a separate thread over the same question if it doesn't warrant that...

As the author of the original answer to the question in question, I've mostly stayed in the background while the debate over re-opening, and whether it is/was opinion-based has gone on. However, perhaps it's time to chip-in:

  • I accept that the original question (after the OP added some detail, but before Clare's first edit) was somewhat opinion-based, but I felt I could make a useful attempt at trying to "codify" some guidelines. This presumably helped the OP since they accepted my answer.

  • I'm personally not particularly bothered by Clare's edit to the question one way or the other. It's probably technically more on-topic post-edit, so if the question is to remain, it probably should be in the edited form.

  • Clare's answer (to the modified question) is clearly more researched than mine and overall is probably the better answer (although – biased though I may be – I still believe mine offers a useful, though less formal, viewpoint).

  • Since Clare's first edit to the question, my answer has gone through a roller-coaster of voting, currently having received four up- and four down-votes and leaving it where it started. Clearly consensus is divided as to its usefulness.

So the nub of why I've made this contribution:

  • Even if I wanted to, I believe I couldn't delete my answer because the OP has accepted it. However, if the consensus is that the question and Clare's answer is now worth keeping, and that mine detracts from it (e.g. by making it seem more "opinion-based"), then assuming mods/whoever have the ability to do so, I will accept with grace (and only mild disappointment) my answer being deleted.
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    Did anyone post a comment suggesting that you delete your answer or it should be deleted? The mods will delete Very-Low-Quality posts but yours clearly doesn't fit that description :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 23, 2017 at 9:08
  • @Mari-LouA No, but for a while during the last few days it was overall negatively voted, and I get the feeling it may have attracted close flags/votes if it hadn't been an accepted answer. While I personally think it adds something (otherwise I wouldn't have written it), I just wanted to make clear that I'm not "overly precious" about it, if the community felt otherwise.
    – TripeHound
    Oct 23, 2017 at 9:39
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    The downvotes were probably inspired by the conviction that the question was off topic. See also Clare's answer which has attracted 2 DVs the last time I checked.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 23, 2017 at 9:52
  • The fact that someone has written an even better answer is never a reason to delete the first answer. Each post should be evaluated on its own merits! :) Oct 23, 2017 at 13:38

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